Saturday, August 21, 2010

Training camp report No. 7: Rensselaer High School

RENSSELAER -- Their first game might be three weeks away (Rensselaer High School has a bye week on Sept. 2 since Saratoga Central Catholic dropped its program earlier this summer) but the Rams were already working hard in the fourth quarter during training camp this week.

Head coach Joel Preston has an unique drill in which all the players gather around in a circle. He rotates between a number of different exercises - sit-ups, push-ups and jumping jacks - in the football variation of Simon Says. The team "competes" through four quarters of time and Preston assigns imiginary touchdowns for or against the Rams depending on their effort. (Somehow, these games always seem to go to overtime and the Rams do just enough jumping jacks to kick the game-winning extra point...)

This team could be taking it easy with opening day still so far away, but having lost to Moriah in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D quarterfinals two years in a row, the Rams are already working for November, whether they get there or not.

"Having lost to them two years in a row, it still haunts me," said senior offensive guard and linebacker Jason Brown. "We plan to take it one game at a time, but we still have that as our ultimate goal."

Phil Sayers grimaces through Rensselaer's patented four quarters conditioning workout at the end of Wednesday's practice behind Rensselaer High School. (Photos by Will Montgomery - The Record).

"We’ve been working hard in the weight room and we have a bunch of freshman stepping up, working hard and bringing intensity to the practice," said senior running back and linebacker Phil Sayers. "It makes practice fun. It makes you want to work hard."

The Rams will be sort of a new-look team in 2010. Gone are the big three playmakers on offense from the last two Section II Class D Super Bowl-winning teams - Jashem Hamilton, Nate Butler and Mico De Los Santos.

Tyler Bishop will see an increased role on offense at fullback, most likely paving the way for Phil Sayers, who could see an increase in his rushing load from the tailback position.

On the offensive line, four of the five starters were set to return until Keith McElroy dislocated his foot. He is likely out for the season.

"That’s the best foundation to have, experience on the offensive line," said head coach Joel Preston. "Three true starters are back and the other two have played a ton. They’re big, strong kids and they’re mature kids and they have experience. Our system is very basic and everybody picks it up and they really enjoy it."

Kenny Mauer, Jason Brown and James McNabb will be providing the veteran experience up front for Rensselaer.

Rensselaer senior running back and linebacker Phil Sayers.

Numbers are always a concern for the small-school teams in Section II, but as a Class D team, Rensselaer is doing quite well. While the Pop Warner team in the city has always done a fine job of feeding the varsity program, Preston is a bit concerned about the future of football in Rensselaer. The Rams will only have about three seniors next year and the future beyond that remains to be seen.

"Football popularity at the high school is up, but we only have one Pop Warner team, a mighty-mite team," said Preston. "We don’t have a pee wee team or a junior pee wee team. That concners me. I think a lot of it is parental involvement. The kids might want to get out there and play, but if the parents don’t get out and pay the fee and sign them up, they’re not goiung to play."

Rensselaer junior fullback and linebacker Tyler Bishop.

It's hard to miss Tyler Bishop on the Rensselaer practice field. He's blossomed into a 5-foot-9, 210-pound fullback and linebacker by spending as much time as he can in the weight room under the watch of his lifting coach, Jason Groark.

Bishop is going to remind Class D football fans of his predecessors, Nate Butler and Jashem Hamilton, but Butler is looking to build his own legacy.

"I feel like I can do it," Bishop said. "I know I’m not going to be another Nate Butler, but I’m going to live up to my name and I’m sure that’s going to make him proud to fill up his spot."

Rensselaer senior offensive guard and linebacker Jason Brown.

Rensselaer's 2010 playbook
COACH: Joel Preston
STARTERS RETURNING: 6 offense, 6 defense
2009 RECORD: 9-2
OFFENSE: Single wing

Rensselaer, 2009 game-by-game results
Greenwich, W 20-7
Bishop Gibbons, W 49-14
Hoosick Falls, L 21-7
SALEM, W 67-0
Moriah, L 28-25#
*Crossover game
!Section II Class D semifinals
@Section II Class D Super Bowl
#NYS Class D quarterfinals
Home games in CAPS

Rensselaer, 2009 stats review
Rushing, Att, Yds., Avg., TDs
Jashem Hamilton, 117, 714, 6.1, 11
Nate Butler, 90, 703, 7.8, 11
Passing, Comp., Att., Yds., Avg., TDs
Timmy Foust, 36, 70, 593, 16.5, 5
Receiving, No., Yds., Avg., TDs
Mico De Los Santos, 25, 404, 16.2, 3
Scoring, TD, 2-pt, PAT, FG, Tot.
Mico De Los Santos, 23, 7, 17, 0, 169

Rensselaer, 2010 schedule
Friday Sept. 3, bye week
Friday Sept. 10, vs. Fort Edward, 7 p.m.
Saturday Sept. 18, at Warrensburg, 1 p.m.
Saturday Sept. 25, at Salem, 1 p.m.
Friday Oct. 1, vs. Cambridge, 7 p.m.
Saturday Oct. 9, at Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons, 1 p.m.
Friday Oct. 15, vs. Whitehall, 7 p.m.

Rensselaer’s three keys to the season
1, Stay healthy.
2, Force turnovers.
3, Protect the ball.

Rensselaer High School football players break down following their four quarters drill Wednesday at the high school.

Keep checking back on the blog for a training camp report posted every day between now and opening day of the high school football season on Thursday, Sept. 2. The schools will be posted in no particular order, so please be patient if you don't see your school right away.

Also keep your eyes open for our 48-page preview section - Kickoff 2010 - which hits the newsstands inside The Record on Thursday, Sept. 2.

Previous training camp reports:
No. 1, Lansingburgh High School
No. 2, Cohoes High School
No. 3, Watervliet High School
No. 4, Columbia High School
No. 5, Catholic Central High School
No. 6, Christian Brothers Academy

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